Rebuilt Engine: 1990 Lotus Esprit SE Turbo

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We don’t see Lotus Esprits come up for sale nearly enough. They are beautiful sports cars, and certainly suitable stewards for the brand that embraced lightness and handling over raw power. The Esprit shown here is a 1990 Turbo SE trim with 77,000 miles on the chassis and far fewer on a rebuilt engine. The seller admits he always coveted one of these low-slung coupes but has found it slightly uncomfortable to use as intended. Find it here on eBay with no reserve and bids to $22,500.

To me, this is one of the prettiest sports cars to come out of the 1980s. The C4 Corvette couldn’t hold a candle to the Esprit, and it absolutely incinerates anything from Japan in the looks department. I would have a hard time declaring it better looking than a Porsche 911 from the same era, but it’s bordering on a toss-up. What brands like Lotus lacked in build quality, they certainly made up for it in gorgeous styling (see also the Jaguar XJS.)

The seller claims he purchased this Esprit out of long-term storage, and while it’s not clear whether he handled the engine rebuild or the previous owner did, the drivetrain is still quite fresh. He estimates there’s just under 5,400 miles on the rebuilt engine. The rebuild as described sounds extensive, with all new pistons, bearings, gaskets, seals, and presumably a refreshed cylinder head along with a new clutch and other updates to the tune of over $11,000 dollars.

Still, some issues remain, and a few of them are hard for the seller to reconcile – the most significant of which is not being able to put his small kids in the back like he can with his 911, a challenge I understand well (if I can’t combine a backroads cruise with the kids, daddy’s not going driving.) The seller also claims the Esprit is not the most comfortable car to get in and out of, and combined with a stiff suspension, he’s opting to spend more time with the air-cooled sports car and set the Esprit free. Which 80s sports car would you choose?

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  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    You’re speaking my words Jeff. Total agreement.

    Like 3
  2. Howie

    I too always wanted one of these, i had a early Europa, i am tall with big feet, so i am out on this one. Sounds like a very honest seller.

    Like 2
    • Ike Onick

      It’s not all bad Howie from what I have heard about big feet equivalents. Big socks is one.

      Like 1
  3. Terrry

    Styling-wise, these have a little too much “80s” for my taste. But if all I wanted was spirited driving and handling, I’d grab one of these.

    Like 1
  4. Frank Sumatra

    1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1
    375-hp V-8, 6-sp manual, 3520 lb
    Base/as-tested price: $58,995/$59,795
    60 mph: 4.9 sec
    1/4 mile: 13.4 sec @ 109 mph
    Top speed: 171 mph
    Braking, 70–0 mph: 159 ft
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.88 g
    C/D observed fuel economy: 16 mpg

    1989 Lotus Esprit Turbo SE
    264-hp turbocharged inline-4, 5-sp manual, 2980 lb
    Base/as-tested price: $81,950/$83,095
    60 mph: 4.8 sec
    1/4 mile: 13.5 sec @ 103 mph
    Top speed: 157 mph
    Braking, 70–0 mph: 186 ft
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.79 g
    C/D observed fuel economy: 18 mpg

    I don’t know for sure Jeff, but it look as if the C4 ZR-1 actually could hold a candle to the Lotus for about $20,000 USD less. Better 1/4 mile, top speed, braking, and skid pad results. Probably also easier and cheaper to have serviced. Interesting.

    Like 8
    • Tony

      This is the V8 Lotus. Your comparison you are using the I4 Lotus.

      Like 0
      • Howie

        Tony this Lotus in the ebay ad is a 4 cyl.

        Like 2
      • bobhess bobhessMember

        Double overhead cam covers make it look like a V8 in the camera shots. The V8s weren’t turbo charged.

        Like 1
      • Frank Sumatra

        This is from a Car and Driver article comparing Lotus, ZR-1, Porsche, Ferrari and the NSX. i didn’t dig too deep. As has been the case for the last 60 years, the Corvette outperformed or came close to the cars a lot more money.

        Like 0
    • Larry F

      I suspect he was speaking of an ordinary vette not the famous and very special ZR1. That is a Corvette that is literally in a class all its own! Hard to find as well!

      Like 1
  5. Tin Box

    I serviced these when they were new, and am pretty sure I still have the scar in my chest from the door frame as the doors didn’t open nearly far enough, or as far as expected. These are the nicest driving ones – the S4S was faster, but the boost hit hard and off boost were dogs…the transition between was sharp.

    Like 2
  6. Howie

    Sold $22,600.

    Like 1

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